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Spot the warning signs... an early diagnosis checklist for Arthritis


The moment you think you might have arthritis, the number one rule is to book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. Identifying arthritis sooner rather than later is of utmost importance but it’s not always clear or easy to spot the symptoms.  

We’ve created a checklist of seven symptoms to help prompt an earlier diagnosis. If you recognise and suffer from any of the below, take photos of physical changes, note down the symptoms and mostly importantly take a trip to the GP.

1. Stiff joints

Developing stiffness in one or several joints is one of the most noticeable signs of arthritis. Stiffness in the morning is worth looking out for as well as initially feeling symptoms in smaller joints such as fingers and toes.

2. Difficulty with everyday actions

Whether it’s opening food cans, doing your buttons up or playing your favourite instrument, noticing a raised difficulty in these actions is a clear warning sign for arthritis. Everyday tasks may become uncomfortable or take twice as long.

3. Pain and swelling

With stiffness frequently comes pain and swelling in the joints. Perhaps your rings or shoes no longer fit, and you’re most comfortable clothes are now painful to wear. A country walk or a night dancing may take longer for your joints to recover from. If so, this is an intimation that you’ve got arthritis.

4. Change in your stride

Whether you yourself have noticed, or others have pointed out a change in gait, looking out for if you’re walking differently is one of the physically obvious symptoms associated with arthritis. Comparing swelling on both sides of your body is another way to identify this.

5. Loss of appetite

Reduced appetite, and subsequent weight loss, can have many reasons but it should be noted alongside all other symptoms.

6. Increased fatigue

Late night movies and stressful weeks at work can leave you feeling exhausted. But lifestyle factors aside, constant exhaustion and flu symptoms, even after a full night’s sleep, is often a sign towards arthritis.

7. Irritability

We all have up and down moments with our moods, but a continuous stream of feeling short-tempered and easily irritated is worth noting down alongside other symptoms.

When to book an appointment:

We’ve all been reminded many a time that not every ache and pain is worthy of a trip to the doctors. However, Arthritis Research UK recommend visiting your GP if you have pain in your joints AND any of the following apply:

- The pain isn’t connected to an injury, or lasts for longer than a week.

- Your joint is swollen, but hasn’t been injured.

- You also feel unwell or have a high temperature.

- Joint or muscle pain is stopping you from carrying out your everyday tasks.

- Your back hurts after lifting something heavy and painkillers and heat hasn’t helped after a day or so.

- You get swelling, stiffness, a tightness, or a painful “squeeze” in your joints.